How to Explain Racism to Kids

It may not be easy to explain racism to kids because we are worried about using the wrong words, and sometimes we are afraid that it might encourage them to become racist. However, children notice racial difference before we bring it up, and talking about it can help them become more comfortable and clear up confusion. Parents must take the opportunity to discuss the issue to help their children make sense of the difference. Here are some tips on racism for kids and will help you talk about it to your kids.

How to Explain Racism to Your Kid

1. Dispute the Prejudiced Comment

Children sometimes say things that can surprise you, but they are often just repeating what they have heard from others. If they say something that hints at stereotypical portrayal of others or show prejudiced attitudes, ask them what makes them say that, without reacting too negatively. Dispute these attitudes gently and give examples from your own experience.

2. Teach With Stories

Teach your kids using stories about great people who fought against racism, such as Martin Luther King. Tell them about the history of experiences that different groups of people had, and how attitudes have evolved to where we are today.

You can also use examples in daily life to help them see the picture more clearly. For example, you can show them apples with different colors, and then let them realize that they all taste good, even if they are different.

3. Tailor the Message to Your Child’s Age

Depending on your child's age, the way you discuss racial diversity may vary. Children who are younger than seven may take in everything we say before anything else, including what they themselves experience. But after the age of ten, their own experiences matter more than what we say. Therefore, the way we talk to them should evolve as they grow. While young, we may explain to them about diversity and equality, but as they grow older, we can also encourage them to interact with people of various ethnic, racial or cultural backgrounds.

4. Encourage Your Kid to Contact with People from Different Groups

Engaging in activities with different groups of people can help them form meaningful bonds with other children and adults. Encourage them to join a sports team or a community project where participants share a common goal. If you live in a community that is not of diverse backgrounds, you can still try to expose the children to different cultures through books or movies. Discuss how people can be different in terms of language, traditions, and foods but similar in other traits such as being good in school or in sports. Helping them find both differences and similarities can help them feel connected to people of different races.

5. Establish Empathy

During their social development, kids need to develop the skill of cultivating empathy, which is beyond the idea of prejudice. They must understand that other people may have desires, intentions and beliefs that are different from their own. You should help your children to consider how others think and feel, especially if they are excluded or if they need help.

6. Become a Role Model

Children often mimic and interpret meaning from the behaviors they see from you, so it is important for you to become a role model of positive behavior toward different people from various backgrounds. Interact with people of different races and cultural backgrounds, be more active in multicultural events in the community, and establish friendships with different people.  

Always be aware of the language you speak in front of your children. Do not make stereotypical comments or insensitive jokes about others in front of them.

7. Find Out If Your Child Is a Victim to Racism

Your child may not be able to express how he has experienced racism at school or in the neighborhood. It is best to find out by doing this in a subtler way, without making them defensive. You can start the discussion by talking about some news and asking them to share their insights. This can open the doors for them to discuss issues that may be bothering them. Let them know that racism is not their fault and that the bad behavior is coming from others who are responsible for actions such as teasing.

To learn more about teaching kids about racism, watch the video below:

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